As we are getting closer to the Missoula Marathon and many other long distance races in Montana, there are likely to be an increase in aches and pains with the increase in mileage. This can be especially true for beginning runners, but also for experienced runners after a long winter with decreased weekly mileage. This month I felt it would be beneficial to talk about some ways to help decrease the aches and pains, as well as when you should seek professional advice.
It is normal to have soreness, usually in your legs or feet with longer runs. This is true especially the first time you run a particular distance. This is the result of your muscles tightening up after a longer fatiguing effort, but not related to a specific trauma or injury. These aches and pains are often described as soreness, stiffness, or tightness. This type of leg pain is usually felt in the quads, hamstrings, glutes (buttocks), or hip flexors (front of hip). Why do we get this soreness? It is a result of the repetition of running, and the less experience you have with longer distance running the more you may feel it. Even with experience you may feel this type of soreness, but it will go away quicker. For inexperienced runners it may take a few days to dissipate, for experienced runners it is usually gone in a day or so.
What can you do to help decrease this type of normal soreness? First, stretch well after your long run. You need to stretch all major leg and hip muscles after a long run. Make your stretches gentle but sustained for a full 30-60 seconds (quads, hamstrings, calf, hip flexors and glutes). Second, ice sore muscles or take an ice bath if multiple areas are sore. Icing should be for at least 10 minutes. Third, drink plenty of water after running as well as during your long run. It can be difficult to carry enough water while running, so plan ahead and stash water bottles along your route or bring money and know where you might be able to buy a bottle of water along the way. Lastly, make sure you have a rest day the day after your long run. This could mean easy cross training, but ideally not running (ie. Swim, easy bike, walk). It is important to incorporate rest days throughout your training to allow your body to take care of muscles that have been stressed. This will allow you to build the strength you need to run your next long run, and eventually your race.
When should you be concerned about the aches and pains you feel with running longer distances?
1) If the pain begins during your run and progressively gets worse during your run.
2) Pain that you feel during run that goes away, but returns after the run and lasts for more than 2 hours after your run.
3) Pain that causes you to limp during running or after running.
4) Pain that comes on in the same place with every run, regardless of distance.
If you are experiencing this type of pain, it could be a sign you have an injury that needs specific attention. If you aren’t sure what type of pain you are having, set up a consult with a Physical Therapist who will be able to help you determine if you need treatment or if there are things you can try on your own. Run Wild Missoula members can schedule free 15 minute consultations at Alpine Physical Therapy, so let us help you keep running!!
By Kristi Moore, MSPT, Alpine Physical Therapy